Is It Time to Set SLAs with Your Hiring Managers?

Are you in a rule-setting, by-the-book type of organization? Or recruiting for the type that relies on open communication and a verbal commitment to deliver on promises? Though it may seem like Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for talent acquisition naturally fit well with the first scenario and not at all with the second, that’s really not the case.

Wherever your company falls on the formal-informal culture continuum, if you’ve dismissed the idea of using SLAs in hiring, it’s time to reconsider. SLAs have been catching on with in-house talent acquisition teams (i.e. your competitors) in the last few years after their debut as a recruitment process outsourcing best practice.

For whatever reason you’ve sidestepped the idea – perhaps lack of time, lack of belief in their worth, or maybe because they seem foreign to your organization’s culture – SLAs do have value in solving some persistent hiring challenges. Read on to find out whether it’s time for you to put these strategic agreements in place, or you can backburner this trend safely and move on.

You Know You’re Ready When?

Every recruiter soon realizes the “Easy Button” is not real when it comes to hiring. As one recruiter I know puts it, “Nearly everything about this job is out of my control. The best I can do is put processes in place that help me stay as responsive as possible to whatever comes next.” Still, there can be certain frustrating patterns of interaction with some hiring managers. If you regularly run into the issues below, a SLA may be a good investment of your time:

Hiring Manager SAL

1. You’re losing top candidates to a slow process.

How many times in the past six months have you missed out on a top candidate? While many factors can make for a rejected job offer, a slow hiring process is often the key issue. And, even more often, it is the hiring manager creating the delay. In a recent study, 47% of rejected job offers were due to candidates accepting another job, which could indicate the hiring process took too long.  Implementing a SLA is one way to address consistent delays. Your SLA can clearly define the length of time hiring managers have to complete the candidate interview(s) and provide their feedback. By giving your hiring managers a deadline and helping them to be more aware of the overall time line, you speed your hiring process along. Many companies are now using video interviewing technology to help hiring managers meet their SLA deadlines with ease and convenience.

Hiring Manager SLA

2. You keep hearing from your hiring managers, “Talent acquisition is your job, not mine.” Or, “I only have time to interview last-stage candidates.”

When a hiring manager doesn’t understand their role in the process, it may drive lack of engagement. They may by unwilling to participate in a hearty planning session, which essentially sets up the hiring process for success from the get-go. A SLA is a pragmatic tool for setting expectations about the way TA services will be delivered and the threshold of participation required of the hiring manager. Some TA teams even create the expectation that if that threshold isn’t met, they can pull the plug on the req.

Purple Unicorn

3. You’re constantly asked for Unicorns and Purple Squirrels.

If it seems you’re always looking for candidates who don’t really exist, it’s time to implement a SLA. Developing the agreement is a perfect context for talking with your hiring manager about quality standards, and his or her role in defining the qualities and attributes of the ideal candidate. You can build in a touchpoint with the hiring manager when reqs first come in. This intake meeting is critical for separating the nice-to-haves from the need-to-haves in a candidate, so there’s mutual understanding and realistic expectations about the candidates you will deliver. If it takes a SLA to make that meeting happen, then it’s worth the effort in the long run.

The Right Frame of Mind

There is one prerequisite to SLAs: A relationship with your hiring manager. SLAs won’t work if the relationship and the respect are not there first. SLAs have value even in just getting the conversation started with your hiring managers. Frame it as a process improvement that will serve both of your goals, and you can start to create that all-important buy-in.

How Simple Can You Get?

If and when you decide to pursue SLAs, the rule of thumb is usually, the simpler, the better. Too much complexity can be a distraction to the real task, and tends to increase friction in the recruiter-hiring manager relationship. Having a simple SLA in place is often enough to guide hiring managers’ expectations and actions so they can become more valuable members of your hiring team.

Sarah Doughty is Vice President of Client Success at Modern Hire, where she leads client partnership development and supports clients in maximizing their interviewing technology ROI. She enjoys helping recruiters and hiring managers achieve a true hiring advantage.